Inbound Marketing & Sales Development Inspiration

Closing the Sale - The Signals to Look For

Posted September 4, 2013
4 minute read

The national sales closing rate is around 27% - WOW. When you think about all the time and money spent meeting with prospects, studying the prospect’s situation and developing proposals, to only convert slightly more than 1 out of 4 is a problem. Clearly, most salespeople aren’t adept in their closing skills.

Among the top 10 selling skills we teach in our classes, knowing when and how to close the sale is the most difficult of them all. This article focuses on how to recognize the verbal and non-verbal signals that indicate when the buyer is ready to be asked for the sale.

Recognizing the “Buyer Shift”

In my experience selling in the B2B environment, there are few buyers who will close themselves – unfortunately. The key is recognizing what we call the “buyer shift”. The “buyer shift” generally occurs when the buyer has heard enough about the benefits of your products and services to his/her business and he/she is ready to take some action.

In most situations, body language and tone of voice are the indicators of the “buyer shift”. In fact, body language accounts for the majority of signals. As you, the salesperson, and the prospect are discussing benefits, watch how the prospect’s body language shifts. Here are some common signs of when the shift does and doesn’t take place:

Green Light (this shift has occurred) 
  • Facial – friendly, smiling, slow head nod, chin stroke, pleasant expression
  • Arms – released, relaxed, uncrossed
  • Eyes – good eye contact, raised eyebrows, rapid blinking eyes
  • Hands – palms open, rubbing hands together, handling your material
  • Legs – uncrossed or crossed and towards you
  • Body Angle – relaxed, upright and toward you, sitting on edge of chair


Red Light (do not attempt to close yet) 
  • Facial – tense, rubs eye, furrowed brow, pursed lips, nose/face scratch
  • Arms – tense, crossed
  • Eyes – raising one eyebrow, looking at watch, glazed over, poor eye contact
  • Hands – clasped/clinched, fidgeting with objects, pen tapping, in pockets
  • Legs – crossed at ankles, crossed away from you, tapping foot
  • Body Angle – slouching, leaning away, turning away from you


In addition to these strong non-verbal signals, there are verbal signals that indicate the “buyer shift”. In many cases the buyer begins making statements that imply mental engagement with you and your product/service. Following are some verbal signals to listen for…

Buyer attachment statements – “this is a good location for the item” or “this all sounds pretty good” or “I can see how this could have an impact on our business” or “if we worked with you how do things get started?”

  • Buyer repeats a question – “can you explain once again how this element works?” or “I’d like to learn a little more about this feature.”
  • Buyer asks a risk-mitigation question – “so you said this comes with a guarantee” or “what happens if our initial actions don’t work?”
  • Buyer mentions an outside recommendation – “Bob is working with you guys and he says he’s been pleased” or “Linda mentioned that she’s been happy with what you’ve done for her.”
  • Buyer communicates unfavorable comments about a competitor – “we are also talking to XYZ company but I’m not sure they are the best choice” or “I am confused about why ABC company suggested a different approach.”
  • Buyer asks for personal details – “how long have you been with your company?” or “what will your involvement be with implementing this solution?”

When body language and other non-verbal signals indicate engagement and a connection with you, and you begin hearing statements and questions that suggest the buyer is envisioning working with you and/or your products/services, the “buyer shift” is occurring. At that point, you need to be ready to ask for the sale or at least ask some trial closing questions to uncover any other objections before asking for the sale.

Nearly half of all sales calls end without an attempt to close the sale. Additionally, if you are timid about asking for the sale, you have a 90% chance of losing the sale. You should never ask for the sale until the buyer is ready. So, watch body language and listen for buying statements to determine if the “buyer shift” has occurred. Then and only then ask for the sale.

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Topics Sales

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